Whincup and Moffat traded the lead due to the tyre strategies
A mixture of tyre strategies ensured that Jamie Whincup had to work extra hard for his 12th V8 Supercars Championship race win of the season at Winton Motor Raceway.
The TeamVodafone driver led just eight of the race’s first 35 laps as Team Norton DJR’s James Moffat bolted away from the field on the soft tyres and emerged from the mid-race stops with a 10 second advantage.
A third tyre strategy – pitting on Lap 1 and running two full stints on the softs – arose due to the Safety Car being called, further complicating proceedings.
While pole-sitter Mark Winterbottom and TeamVodafone’s Craig Lowndes took the opening lap gamble, Whincup elected to stick to the more conventional option and won out in the end.
CLICK HERE for Speedcafe.com’s race report, result and updated points standings
“It was a pretty crazy racing going on from where I sat with the strategy and what tyres to run,” said Whincup afterward.
“I was surprised to see car #5 (Winterbottom) pull into the pits on Lap 1 and I knew it was on from there.
“I just focussed out of my windscreen and pushed on as hard as I could.
“I thought that I’d struggle to catch Moffat (in the second stint) because he had a big lead there, but definitely the soft tyre was quicker than the hard tyre and seemed to last really good also which was surprising and we were able to control the race at the end.”
Moffat had made contact with the back of Whincup’s car as the pair jostled for position following the early restart – proving Whincup’s pre-race comments that his commanding championship position wouldn’t change his approach to the remaining races.
“We were trying to win the race and I knew that if I could hold Moff out as long as I could it’d give me the best opportunity,” he said of the touch, which visibly unsettled the Holden on the run to Turn 10. “He was definitely a threat at that stage so it was dog eat dog.”
Whincup now has a 326 point lead over Mark Winterbottom in the championship with three races remaining, ensuring that – assuming no points penalties are awarded – the former is on track to secure the title before the Sydney finale.
“Not yet,” Whincup replied when asked if he could taste a fourth title following today’s win.
“I think tomorrow is going to be a huge day for the championship, it can go one way or the other.
“I started at the workshop on the 16th of January this year and it’s been a long, tough grind.
“Don’t take that out of context, it is a good job that I’ve got, but it’s certainly a long grind trying to be competitive and I think it’s all going to come down to the next 24 hours.”